Lush employees lead hunger strike on behalf of Guantánamo prisoner Binyam Mohamed

October 14, 2008

As the case of British Resident and Reprieve client Binyam Mohamed returns to the UK High Court, Lush Cosmetics is calling for a nation-wide hunger strike on 15th October to draw attention to Binyam’s torture and illegal imprisonment in Guantánamo Bay.

From noon on Wednesday, Lush shop staff in stores across the country will go without food for 24 hours to as a sign of solidarity with Binyam, who has been tortured and denied justice during his six-year ordeal at the hands of the US authorities. In-store posters of Binyam will greet Lush customers on the day, who will be encouraged to join the hunger strike or wear a specially made sticker reading ‘Bring Binyam Home.’

Lush Cosmetics has been campaigning on behalf of prisoners like Binyam since March of this year, when it launched a special edition bath ballistic called ‘Guantánamo Garden’, with 100% of its proceeds going to legal action charity Reprieve, whose lawyers represent Binyam and other prisoners being denied a fair trial and access to the legal system.

The fizzing ballistic contained images of Binyam and journalist Sami Al Haj, which floated to the surface of the bath when put into water. While Sami was freed from Guantánamo earlier this year and given the International Press Freedom Award, Binyam still languishes at the hands of his captors and now faces charges of terrorism in an unfair and unjust US military tribunal where the death penalty is a very real possibility.

Andrew Butler, Lush Campaigns Manager, said, “In a place like Guantánamo, going on hunger strike is just about the only way prisoners can protest the abuse and torture they endure every day, which is why Lush staff have decided to go without food in solidarity.” He added, “Binyam’s case is illustrative of the way fear and intimidation has been used to erode the rights of people throughout the world, making it more dangerous place for us all. We should all be concerned that a British resident has been tortured and denied a fair trial, and demand that the rule of law and conventions against torture should be applied at all times, especially at times of great adversity.”

Andy Worthington, Reprieve’s Communications Manager, said, “This week is a crucial time for Binyam and, as we’ve seen with the case of Sami Al Haj, public support is a key factor in ensuring prisoners are afforded the justice they are entitled to under international law. We thank Lush staff and customers for supporting Reprieve and campaigning for fair trials and an end to torture.”

Binyam’s story

A Londoner since the age of 15, Binyam Mohamed studied in London and worked in a local community centre before travelling to Pakistan, where he was apprehended for a visa violation and taken into custody in April 2002. In July 2002 Binyam was rendered on a CIA plane to Morocco, where his captors tortured him for 18 months. This included being stripped naked and cut with a scalpel on his chest and penis, kept in isolation, and subjected to sleep deprivation with a continuous barrage of loud music. Despite this, Binyam said that his lowest point came when his interrogators asked him questions about his life in London, which he realized could only have been provided by the British intelligence services, and he realized that he had been betrayed by the country that he called home.

In January 2004, Binyam was rendered to the ‘Dark Prison’, a CIA facility near Kabul, where his torture continued for several months. He was then transferred to the US prison at Bagram airbase, and arrived in Guantánamo in September 2004.

Reprieve has sought to get evidence of his rendition and torture from the British government. In August, the High Court ruled that any such information must be handed over to Binyam’s lawyers, but the government has so far failed to comply with this court order, by claiming that the need to preserve its relationship with the US intelligence services is more important than any of the grave issues relating to Binyam’s case.

As Lush’s staff take part in their hunger strike, the timing could not be better, as Binyam’s case is once being heard in the High Court.

-ENDS-

For further information, please contact:

  • Sean Gifford in Lush’s Press Office on 020 7434 3948,
  • Andrew Butler, Lush Campaigns Manager, on 07876 596541
  • Andy Worthington at Reprieve’s Press Office on 020 7427 1099.
  • Emails: sean.gifford@lush.co.uk or andy@reprieve.org.uk.

Notes for Editors

Lush raised £45,000 for Reprieve through the sale of the Guantánamo Garden bath ballistic and Charity Pot hand and body lotion.

Since being established 13 years ago, Lush Cosmetics has been driven by innovation and its ethics. Creators of pioneering beauty products such as the fizzing bath ballistic, shower jellies and butter creams and solid shampoo bars, Lush places emphasis on fresh ingredients like organic fruits and vegetables. Lush operates a strict policy against animal testing and supports Fair Trade and Community Trade initiatives. Lush leads the cosmetics industry in combating over-packaging by running public awareness campaigns and developing products that can be sold naked to the consumer without any packaging. For more information on Lush please visit www.lush.co.uk.

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.

Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves:

• representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay.

• working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty.

• conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee. Registered Charity No. 1114900
Registered Company No. 5777831 (England)
Registered Office: 2-6 Cannon Street London EC4M 6YH
Patrons: Alan Bennett, Martha Lane Fox, Sir John Mortimer, Gordon Roddick, Jon Snow, Marina Warner